The newspaper is a good, inexpensive way to
get the word out
if used properly. Advertising is just one
way to make the paper work for you. Remember press releases? Most
papers have at least one person, full time, who does nothing but
work with press releases. And then, of course, the highlight of
a newspaper campaign - the news story. But let's start with the
There are certain essential things that have
to be in a press release: who, what, when, where, how and how
much. The first four are pretty obvious, as is the last; "how"
is "how do I get more information (tickets, donate money,
whatever). The trick is to make the release interesting enough
to get published.
In a press release publicizing a show, don't make the mistake
of providing a plot synopsis. Tantalize, tease and generate interest.
Use the play's exposition to your benefit. Ask questions: "Who
poisoned the health resort owner? Who will be the next to die?"
You get the idea. One cardinal sin here is to be dry: "A
mystery set in a health club" has no punch whatsoever.
So when should you send out press releases? Every chance you
- Season Announcement -- Announce your season and push
those season tickets.
- Audition Notice - Get the word out
know who's out there.
- Cast Announcement - Let the public know who's going
to be in the show
and push those show dates.
- Opening Night - Try to make as big a splash as possible.
- Performances Continuing - The following week, be sure
to have something there to continue the momentum.
The last three press releases should also include something else
- good quality photographs. Black and white prints always go over
well, although more and more papers are using more color. Check
with the paper and see which they prefer.
Paid advertising can be cheaper than you think. Most papers
will cut a non-profit a break. If they won't, you know what your
schedule is, so you can probably buy in advance and get a break
that way. The ad rep will be more than happy to show you how you
can save a few pennies. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
If you have a graphic designer who creates your programs and
flyers, try to have them design your ad. It will give a more unified
look to all your materials, and they will probably design something
a little more eye-catching than the paper's in-house staff would
If you do end up relying on the paper to do your layout, don't
be afraid to speak up and tell them what you want. After all,
you're paying for it. Don't see your ad for the first time when
you pick it up off the sidewalk.
If you can buy in more than one paper, do it. If you can't afford
that, try to get an idea of which paper is most likely to do you
the most good. We've had at lot of luck using the local weekly
paper, rather than the daily. People seem to read it a little
closer. We've built up quite a relationship over the years, and
they come over and do a story on each show.
Weekly papers are more likely to give you a story than the dailies.
Weeklies have more room and tend to be more community-oriented
than dailies. But it never hurts to ask. Follow up on your press
releases by giving a call and inviting the paper to send a reporter.
If you do end up being interviewed for a news story, remember
three things: 1) talk as though everything you say will end up
in the story, but not necessarily in the right order, 2) NOTHING
you say is ever really "off the record"
looks good on TV, and 3) you will not get to approve the story
before it is printed.
Whole books have been written on the art of the interview, all
of them full of great advice; "don't be rushed," "
think over every answer," etc. The best advice in each of
them is summed up above.
Next we'll look into one of my favorite topics: how to talk
a radio station into promoting your show. That one's gonna be
Marketing on the Cheap -